The Backcountry Boiler™

What it is

Evolution of Boiler. A shorter timeline than that of Man, but not by much. Similarly, there's a missing link. The first chimney kettle I made was hacked out of soda cans, but it got tossed in a move. Maybe that's what happened to the fossil record, too. :)

The Backcountry Boiler, formerly known as the Montgomery Kettle, is the world’s first practical ultralight chimney kettle. I designed it in Google SketchUp, learned how to make its components from a PDF, a couple DVDs and Youtube, and prototyped it on a lathe on my back porch. It has given me cause to meet (really and virtually) some legitimately awesome people who have offered invaluable support all along the way. For its unabridged history, read theboilerwerks, and the Backpackinglight.com forum threads where its current form was born in June 2009 and first made available March 2010. A succinct history of the project was featured on Hendrik Morkel’s Hiking in Finland.

The Backcountry Boiler is entirely made in North America. This blog is a documentation project following its production. See one in use and being made.

Why you want one

  1. Light – Roughly the same size and weight as a wide-mouthed water bottle
  2. Versatile – Can operate on virtually anything flammable (so no fuel to carry, but also unlimited hot water. It’s basically like perpetual motion.)
  3. Fast – depending on fuel and operator skill, it can boil 2 cups of water in under 5 minutes
  4. Delicious – Makes hot drinks, rehydrates backpacking meals (yum)
  5. Quenching – Can be used as a canteen to carry water when not in use
  6. Sanitary – Creates potable water through boiling
  7. Hard Core – Works in almost any weather – moderate wind actually makes it burn hotter!
  8. Low Impact – Burns efficiently so it requires little kindling and leaves little ash
  9. Awesome – seriously. Once this thing gets going, it’s like the bellows of Hades.

Chimney Kettles

Anatomy of a Boiler. Pixel on LCD. Devin Montgomery 2010.

Chimney kettles have been around for a long time, first gaining notoriety for their use by fisherman in Ireland (trade names like Kelly Kettle, Volcano Kettle, Ghillie Kettle.. the list goes on) and New Zealand troops stationed in Africa in WWII (called the Thermette). Those early kettles were awesome because they could boil water really fast, on virtually any indigenous fuel, and in almost any weather. They could even be used as canteens when not in use.

But they were big and heavy. Not really a problem when you have a fishing boat or are part of a military caravan, but a big problem when you don’t or aren’t. Just as those kettles were made to suit their application, the Backcountry Boiler was designed for those who experience the wilds in a lighter way – on foot, paddle, or peddle.

The name Backcountry Boiler is an homage to “Benghazi Boiler,” the nickname given to the New Zealand Thermette for its ubiquity around the West African city of the same name.


Boilerwerks is me, Devin Montgomery. I’m an avid hiker, rower, and bicyclist who likes to make stuff and blog about it. I recently completed an expensive graduate education, but taught myself just about everything related to making the Boiler.

The Backcountry Boiler logo was designed by good friend and artistic genius Mat Thorne of Sevenbay Design.